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Jiddu Krishnamurti on Fear of Death



Jiddu Krishnamurti on Death

Question: Though I am young, I am haunted by the fear of death. How am I to overcome this fear?

Jiddu Krishnamurti : Surely, anything that is overcome has to be overcome again, does it not? When you conquer your enemy, you have to reconquer him again and again. That is why wars continue. The moment you vanquish one desire, there is another desire to be vanquished. So, that which is overcome can never be understood. Overcoming is merely a form of suppression, and you can never be free of that which is suppressed. So, the overcoming of fear is merely the postponement of fear.

Our problem, then, is not how to overcome fear of death but to understand the whole process of death, and understanding it is not a matter of being young or old. There are various forms of death, for the old as well as for the young. All of us are conditioned by our past, by conformity, by the desire for our own advancement, by the subtle accumulation of power, and though we are outwardly active, we may be inwardly dead.

So, to understand this process of death needs a great deal of exploration, and not merely adhering to a particular form of belief - that there is, or is not, a continuity after death. Belief in life after death may give you an ideological consolation, and there may be, and probably is, a form of continuity. But then what? What continues? Can that which continues ever be creative? And where there is continuity, is there not always the fear of ending? So, death is a process of time, is it not?

What do we mean by time? There is chronological time, but there is also another kind of time, is there not? It is the psychological process of continuity. That is, we want to continue, and the very desire to continue creates the process of time and the fear of not continuing. It is this fear of not continuing that we are concerned with; it is ending of which we are afraid. We are afraid of death because we think that through continuity we shall achieve something, we shall be happy.

After all, what is it that continues? If we can really understand that, if we can actually experience it as we are sitting here, and not merely listen to words, then perhaps we shall know what it is to die from moment to moment; and knowing death, we shall know life because the two are not very different. If we do not know how to live, we are afraid of death, but if we know how to live, then there is no death. Most of us do not know what living is, and so we regard death as a negation of life, and therefore we are afraid of death. But if we can understand what living is, then we shall know of death in the very process of living. To find that out, we must understand what we mean by continuity.

What is this extraordinary craving to continue that each one of us has? And what is it that continues? Surely, that which continues is name, form, experience, knowledge, and various memories. That is what we are, is it not? To divide yourself into the higher and the lower self is irrelevant - you are still merely the sum total of all that.

Though you may say, "No, I am more than that, I am a spiritual entity,'' that very assertion is part of the process of thinking, which is the conditioned and conditioning response of memory. There are others who are conditioned to say, "We are not spiritual, we are just the product of environment." So, you are your memories, your experiences, your thoughts. At whatever level you place the thought process, you are still that, and you are afraid that when death comes, that process, which is the 'you', will come to an end. Or, you rationalize it and say, "I will continue in some form after death and come back in the next life."

Now, a spiritual entity obviously cannot continue because it is beyond time. Continuity implies time - yesterday, today, and tomorrow; therefore, that which is timeless can have no continuity. To say "I am a spiritual entity" is a comforting thought, but the very process of thinking about it catches it in the net of time; therefore, it cannot be timeless, and therefore it is not spiritual.

So, what we have is only our thinking, which is also feeling. We have nothing but our name, our form, our family, our clothes and furniture, our memories and experiences, our responses, traditions, vanities, and prejudices. That is all we have, and that we want to continue. We are afraid it will all come to an end, that we shall be unable to say, "This for which I have struggled is all mine." Now, can that which continues ever renew itself? Obviously not.

That which continues cannot be reborn, renewed; it can merely have a continuity. Only that which comes to an end can renew itself. There is creation only when there is an ending. But we are afraid to end, we are afraid to die. We want to carry on from yesterday through today to tomorrow. We are building Utopias and sacrificing the present to the future, liquidating people because of the desire for continuity.

If we examine very closely what it is that continues, we will see that it is only memory in various forms, and because the mind clings to memory, it is afraid of death. But surely, only in dying, in not accumulating, is there that which is beyond time. The mind cannot possibly conceive, formulate, or experience that which is not of time. It can experience only that which is of time because the mind is the result of time, of the past.

So, as long as the mind is afraid of coming to an end, it clings to its own continuity, and that which continues must obviously decay. Our difficulty is to die to all the things that we have accumulated, to all the experiences of yesterday. After all, that is death, is it not? - to be uncertain, to be in a state of vulnerability. The man who is certain can never know that which is immortal, that which is beyond time.

The man of knowledge can never know death, which is beyond time, the unknown. It is only when we die from moment to moment to the things of yesterday and understand the whole significance of continuity that there is the unknown, a new thing. That which continues can never know the truth, the unknown, the new; it can only know its own projection. Most of us live through accumulation; therefore, yesterday and tomorrow become far more important than the present.

There must obviously be chronological time; otherwise, you will miss your train; but as long as we are caught in the projection of the mind, which is psychological time, there is no ending, and that which has continuity is not immortal. Only that which comes to an end is timeless, and that alone can know the immortal.

Source: Jiddu Krishnamurti Talk at New York & Seattle 1950

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